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So much for the notion that this year’s Final Four did not have a one-and-done.
Zach Collins cemented himself as Gonzaga’s first in program history with his exemplary NCAA tournament performance.
Collins declared for the NBA Draft with the intent to hire an agent at a later date, Gonzaga announced Tuesday. The 7-foot freshman is projected to be taken in the middle of the first round this June.
“This was a significant decision for my family and me,” Collins said in a statement. “It was definitely one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I just want to thank everyone at Gonzaga, especially the coaching staff and my teammates.
“This season was special and something I will never forget. It was the most fun year of my life. I want to thank all of the Zag fans for all of their support and passion. I’ll always be proud to be a Zag.”
The first McDonald’s All-American ever to sign with Gonzaga out of high school, Collins exceeded expectations during his lone season with the Zags. He emerged as a key part of college basketball’s deepest and most versatile frontcourt, averaging 10 points and 5.9 rebounds off the bench while impacting games defensively with his mobility and shot blocking prowess.
Collins was at his best in the national semifinals against South Carolina when he was dominant on both ends of the floor. He tallied 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked six shots, a huge reason Gonzaga advanced to the national title game against North Carolina.
Heavy foul trouble kept Collins from making a similar impact against the Tar Heels. The freshman picked up his fourth foul away from the ball with 15 minutes to go in the game and then fouled out nine minutes later, leaving him powerless to help down the stretch.
“It was really frustrating because I’ve been struggling with foul trouble all year,” Collins said after the game. “You’d think I’d learn, but I guess I didn’t learn. If I’m in the game, maybe I can make a difference in those last six minutes, but I’ve just got to be smarter.”
With Collins leaving for the NBA draft and Przemek Karnowski graduating, Gonzaga will lean on returners Johnathan Williams III and Killian Tillie in the frontcourt as well as redshirt freshman Jacob Larsen. That’s a good enough frontcourt nucleus to keep the Zags a fixture in the top 10 next season if Nigel Williams-Goss returns for his senior season to bolster the backcourt.
As for Collins, he’ll try to adjust to the NBA, where one rule will certainly suit his game.
Next year, he’ll get six fouls instead of five.
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